Friday, April 27, 2012

Indycar's Chevy Has Will Power - And Fuel Mileage Too!

Will Power Wins 2nd Straight
The Long Beach Grand Prix IZOD Indycar Series race was again a shot in the arm for Penske's Chevy powered team, with Ryan Briscoe taking pole position for and Will Power hanging on for a second straight road course win from deep in the pack. Willy P grabbed the headlines with a masterful drive from a 12th place starting position after winning from 9th at Barber the previous race. Power winning on a road course is not a shocker, but it was Chevy who really surprised everyone with great fuel economy in its twin turbo engine after every Chevy powered team lost 10 grid spots following wholesale engine changes dictated by the manufacturer were made before the Long Beach weekend.
2012 Indy 500 Entry List

Now the teams head to Brazil following an off weekend to prepare and controversy has begun to swirl around the Indycar paddock. Chevy objected to Honda's turbo modification request to no avail after an Indycar appeal fell on deaf ears. And Lotus has lost two teams heading to Indy (Bryan Herta Autosports and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) who could see the writing on the wall and were fearful of being totally uncompetitive in the 500. Lotus teams have been woefully underpowered and under-supplied so far this season after the engine mark's late start for the 2012 season, and BHA/DRR are the first to jump ship. After winning Indy last year with the late Dan Wheldon at the com, there's no way BHA wanted to show up this year and possibly miss the show.

Simon Pagenaud
With Indycar in Brazil this weekend for the last race before the Indianapolis 500, getting bumped out at the Brickyard is looking like a real possibility after all, with 34 car-driver combinations announced on the entry list and the possibility of two more in the works - one for Michael Shank Racing and one for Newman Haas which would feature former F1 star Jean Alesi. So far this season it's been all Penske all the time with wins for Helio Castroneves and two by Power, and there's no reason to believe this weekend will be any different. The Long Beach race was not without other interesting developments, despite the appearance of Penske dominance. After Graham Rahal jinked over in front of Marco Andretti who was attempting a pass, Marco got airborne after running into the right rear of Rahal's Dallara, so now Rahal is on six weeks of  probation for his subtle maneuver which created "avoidable" contact. No such determination was made when pole starting Dario Franchitti punted aggressive rookie Josef Newgarden in the first corner at Long Beach, but I chalk that one up to cold tires for Dario and a rookie mistake by Josef. It sure would have been nice to see him stick that move and lead the race for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing! That kid is quick and fearless so I am looking forward to seeing how he handles Indy. It was somewhat surprising that the grid penalties for all the Chevy engine changes were overcome at Long Beach, but it made for a thoroughly entertaining race, especially when Simon Pagenaud starting chopping a second per lap off of Power's lead in the last 15 laps. Brazil will likely include more of the same dramatic action as the teams are getting increasingly comfortable with the capabilities of the new DW12 chassis and the engine wars are heating up.

Mr. Mayor, @Hinchtown
Watch out for my man James Hinchcliffe who's the Go Daddy guy and ready to win races after a third place at Long Beach. He said on the post race interview that he would shave his head if he won the Indy 500 this year, and I can't wait to see what the Mayor of Hinchtown has up his sleeve to entertain the fans next! I still think it is going to be hard to unseat Penske at Indianapolis, and Helio is a strong candidate for the pole and race win once again.

Helio at 2012  Indy Test

In two weeks, all the teams come to Indy and practice starts May 12th at the Speedway with Rookie Orientation set for May 10th. After the recent open test at Indy where top speeds were only in the 218 mph range, it will be interesting to see what tricks the teams have come up with, and whether the pole speed will top 220 or not. I am most interested in Carb Day May 25th to find out how quick they will run in a pack to see if the new Dallara may actually run better in groups than by itself as winning the pole at Indy is certainly special, but leading the last lap after 500 miles is the real prize. There are 800 left turns involved, not 799 as J. R. Hildebrand found out last year to Dan Wheldon's benefit, so anything is possible at Indy so stay tuned race fans, for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing!  

Salem Speedway in Salem, Indiana
While my Indycar friends are racing south of the equator Sunday, I am trundling off to "God's Country" in southern Indiana to shoot the ARCA race at Salem Speedway, the fast & bumpy high banked half mile. The two series and locations are indeed world's apart, but I need to shoot a race and no one has offered to pay me to shoot Indycar in Brazil yet. I'm not about to pout over it as my racing schedule gets busier starting now. Next weekend I head to Talladega to shoot NASCAR for Associated Press and the following weekend the real excitement in Indianapolis starts to build as the Speedway opens once again. Now that my schoolwork is done for my teaching license, I am really looking forward to getting my cameras a workout at racetracks this season. Who knows what opportunities await me out there. I will see you at the track!

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